Old Boise Trail North


Forest Service Trail #101

Why? Great views and wonderful open terrain

Season: July through September

Ease: Moderate. It’s 4 miles and 1,000+ feet of up and down elevation change to just past The Narrows.

There’s surely no other trail as easy to hike that will give you any better views of the Seven Devils. You won’t see the whole range as you do from the summit trail in Oregon, but the peaks you do see are closer than they are from all the way over there, within 3 to 5 miles for most. And you don’t have to walk far to see them all, just 2 or 3 miles one-way.

The walk itself is pleasant. The trail drops quickly down through woods, then stays relatively level all the way to The Narrows, where it switchbacks down before heading north again.

At the start, the trail is on the east side of the ridgeline and there are a few views toward the Gospel Hump and the area south of the Salmon River. Papoose Lake is a surprise, even though it’s on the map. It’s a bit more than a mile out, and sits some 500 feet below the trail at the base of a steep rock wall.

Once past the lake, the trail swings over to the west side of the ridge, through a burned area and onto a grassy slope. From here on, you’ll be getting the views you’re hiking to see, and you’ll be getting them from a trail that’s pretty level and pretty easy walking. They’ll be better once you turn around and head back to the trailhead and are facing the Seven Devils, but they’re not bad going this way, either.

On the outward trip you sometimes can see Cottonwood Butte far off to the north, can always see the Sheep Creek drainage and the rugged breaks on the Oregon side of the Snake River. The lookout at Hat Point and the dip that is Freezeout Saddle both are easy to recognize along the latter. All but Cottonwood Butte will be visible on the return trip, but from a different perspective.

The Sheep Creek drainage is much more impressive on the way back, carpeted in deep, dark green. It contrasts beautifully with the brown grass of the hillside you’re walking (if you’re walking it in the fall, as I did) and the black mountains of the Seven Devils that sit behind it. The lookouts at Heaven’s Gate and Dry Diggins seem out of place in this wild and natural landscape. The only problem you’ll have is that you’ll be looking into the sun most of the way back.

I met a couple guys back in the campground who’d hiked this trail earlier in the summer, when it was a field full of wildflowers. In the fall, the nice contrast between the brown grasses and the greens of Sheep Creek compensate for the lack of bloom.

If you hike in the fall, however, wear gaiters as the grasses are full of seeds that can and will poke through your socks.

Directions: Take a right just south of Riggins on Road 517, the road to the Seven Devils. It’s a 17-mile uphill drive. The first 11 are great but the last 6 are rocky and take a lot longer. At the top, Windy Saddle, turn right onto the road to Heavens Gate which you’ll find about a mile away. The trailhead is in the parking lot.

Information: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in Riggins (208) 628-3916 or Clarkston (509) 758-0616.

Maps: USGS Heavens Gate and Kessler Creek, Idaho. You also can get a trail map with no contours at the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area office in Riggins